BHL Goes to Chicago for DPLAfest2017

For two days in April, a group of librarians, archivists, developers and other members of the digital library community came together in Chicago for DPLAfest, an annual conference organized by the Digital Public Library of America. Focuses of this year’s conference included collaboration across institutions, public engagement, social justice, metadata quality, and the use and reuse of open access content. The BHL has been a content hub for DPLA since its launch in 2013, and we were excited to participate in this year’s conference.

The conference was hosted by the Chicago Public Library, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, Chicago Collections, and the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS). The CPL’s beautiful Harold Washington Library Center served as the location of the conference.

In addition to attending our colleagues’ presentations and workshops, members of the BHL community were part of the schedule. On day one, Adriana Marroquin, project manager of the BHL Field Notes Project, was part of a group of lightning rounds held in the library’s auditorium. The group covered a compelling array of topics, including collecting oral histories, digitizing scrapbooks, tracking the use of digital content, and the reuse of open access material for art installations and cultural events. (A full list of the topics is available on the DPLA schedule.)

The BHL lightning talk centered on the Field Notes Project’s collaborative nature, its goals and progress, and the way project partners work together to overcome some of the particular challenges involved. With 11 partners across the Unites States, we have to handle several different time zones, workflows tailored to each institution’s needs, and unique field note collections. The project’s solutions to these challenges could be summarized in four key points: embracing digital communication tools to counteract geographic dispersal, being flexible to accommodate each partner’s needs, being consistent in our work, and tapping into the built-in group knowledge and experience that comes with a collaborative project. Many of these build off of BHL’s day-to-day solutions to the challenges of a global consortium, and can also be applied to collaborative projects of any size and topic.

On day two, mentors and residents from the “Foundations to Actions: Extending Innovations in Digital Libraries in Partnership with NDSR Learners” project gave an hour-long presentation to DPLAfest attendees. All five of the BHL NDSR residents – Alicia Esquivel of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Marissa Kings of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Pamela McClanahan of Smithsonian Libraries, Katie Mika of Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Ariadne Rehbein of Missouri Botanical Garden – were all in attendance.

The BHL-NDSR presentation touched on the DPLAfest themes of digital libraries and open access content and collaboration across types of institutions. Mentors Trish Rose-Sandler (Missouri Botanical Garden) and Leora Siegel (Chicago Botanic Garden) introduced the BHL, NDSR, the purpose of the program and its timeline, and their roles as mentors. Next, each Resident had 7 minutes to explain their core goals, challenges, activities, and context for their work. The Residents managed to hone all the complexities and research they have conducted into pithy talks that were clear to folks totally new to BHL and their projects. Before the day of the presentation, they practiced together in a study room at the Harold Washington Library, sharing feedback and reducing nerves. On the day of, it was wonderful to interact with the audience (laughter, questions, and applause!) as well as speak with some attendees from the NDSR community! View the final presentation on the DPLA site.

The BHL would like to thank DPLA and our hosts in Chicago for bringing this group of digital library professionals together to interact face-to-face. We appreciate the opportunity to learn from our fellow digital library colleagues, hear about other amazing projects, and to discuss how we accomplish our own projects through collaboration and team work. We can’t wait for next year!

Further reading:
DPLAfest recap on the NDSR at BHL blog
Biodiversity Heritage Library at DPLAfest 2015

The BHL Field Notes Project is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

The “Foundations to Actions: Extending Innovations in Digital Libraries in Partnership with NDSR Learners” project is a National Digital Stewardship Residency (NDSR) program led by BHL and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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